NPR has reported on a really fascinating, solid description of being "overwhelmed": the concept that exercising willpower to make a decision involving tradeoffs or self control lowers the willpower for subsequent decisions. While this can be applied anywhere, they specifically draw the line to the poor: "Many of the tradeoff decisions that the poor have to make every day are onerous and depressing: whether to pay rent or buy food; to buy medicine or winter clothes; to pay for school materials or loan money to a relative. These choices are weighty, and just thinking about them seems to exact a mental cost."
One thing that strikes me is how focusing fear is - you take a bunch of people who are overwhelmed and yell loudly "FEAR THIS!" and they're relieved, because now they're focused, so tradeoffs are suddenly clear. There are days I worry that intellectual progressives make average Joes feel like crap most of the time, that our compassionate examination of every detail is just overwhelming for people, then they have to fight off feeling badly about themselves because we've just said "play nice, even if it's complicated."
Obama came along with "Hope!" as an antidote to "Fear!" and people were able to rally around progressive ideas.